The picture of the nearly century old Indian gooseberry tree (amla in Hindi and nellikai in our native language Kannada) that stood tall in the courtyard of my grandparents home in Siddapur, Karnataka will always be fresh in my mind.
It was the tree that witnessed all the weddings of my uncles and aunts, the births of many grandchildren and the numerous festivals and celebrations that took place in the family. It was also in this courtyard that we cousins played games, running from pole to pole until we were exhausted and the calls for dinner arrived and the thoughts of the delicious south Indian havyaka brahmin food that was going to be served was one of the things that could make us move from this cosy place. And it was this same tree that stood witness to all our games filled with fun and frolic, our fights and disappointments too!
The fruit of the tree the nellikai or amla which strongly contrasts the fruit available in the market these days was made into savoury pickles, chutneys and sweet relishes by ammamma( my grandmother).
With its rich Vitamin C contents and other healing attributes, the amla chutney recipe that I’m sharing with you today is very close to my heart and has enlivened many of my meals with zest and comfort.
Amla is known to be an antidote to many winter maladies like coughs and colds. According to Ayurveda, the amla fruit (derived from the sanskrit name “amalika”) has five tastes sour and astringent and sweet, bitter and pungent secondary tastes. The salt in chutneys provides the sixth taste to complete the taste cycle.
This chutney is sour, salty and slightly hot and is a great accompaniment to most south Indian dishes and even rotis and parathas. One of my favourite ways of eating this is with plain hot rice at times mixed with a dollop of ghee or coconut oil. I recently had an unexpected guest for lunch with zero notice and I served him hot rice, sambar, some papad, buttermilk and this chutney and he went back a happy man. And ofcourse he couldnt stop himself from taking second and third helpings from my chutney jar!
Indian Gooseberry (Amla) Chutney
If you dont want to use green chilies, substitute it with red chili powder.
10 to 15 Indian Gooseberry (amla), grated
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp asafetida
1 tsp turmeric powder
3 to 4 green chillies, chopped (or less)
1 tsp fenugreek seeds, lightly roasted and ground
2 tsp salt or to taste
Lightly roast the fenugreek seeds in a heavy bottomed iron skillet or wok. Crush to a powder with a mortar and pestle.
Heat the oil in a wok over a medium flame and put in the mustard seeds. When they pop lower the flame and add the asafetida, turmeric powder, greenchilies and fenugreek in quick succession.
Turn off the heat after 30 seconds or else the turmeric will go black and the fenugreek seeds will turn bitter.
Stir in the grated amla and salt.
Allow to cool, put in an air tight container and store in the refrigerator for upto a month.